By Steve Hoover, Chief Technology Officer
(Photo above: At the Science Challenge Day, Professor Beaker (at left) is played by John Moore. Superhero Einstein is played by Gene Rogalski. Both (Moore and Rogalski) are Xerox engineers and Science Consultants.)
What do 100,000 straws, 75,000 paperclips, 135 aspiring engineers and 65 student inventors have in common? The Xerox Science Challenge Day, of course!
More than 200 elementary school students visited our Webster, New York, campus to showcase skills and knowledge they acquired from the Xerox Science Consultant Program. The program partners Xerox people volunteer in elementary school classrooms throughout the Rochester City and Webster Central school districts, and present monthly hands-on science lessons that are designed to excite and inspire the students. In short, the Xerox Science Consultants demonstrate cool stuff that could have a lasting impact on these budding engineers and scientists. The goal is to show how exciting science can be, and help them believe that a career in a STEM-related field is desirable and attainable.
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It’s incredible to see what these young people are capable of at such a young age. What I love about visiting Science Challenge day is the look on the kids’ faces when they stress-test their structure or pitch their invention. They are truly excited about what they’re doing, and I’m delighted that they are translating what they learned in the classroom to the real world solutions and possibilities. To me, knowing that Xerox has a part in that is both fulfilling and uplifting. It says we’re doing the right things in our community.
Engineering competition and invention convention
The annual event comprises two competitions, an engineering structures competition and an invention convention. Both are judged by Xerox engineers and scientists, as well as senior leaders and community influencers.
The structures competition was the culmination of basic engineering concepts that our 80 Science Consultants taught over several months. That’s where all those straws and paperclips come in. Students who win in-class competitions tweak their structures to bear maximum weight while using minimal materials. On Science Challenge Day, when the stress-test produces the inevitable loud crash, the students were both gleeful and apprehensive as they waited for the judges’ results.
The Invention Convention challenged students to solve a problem, improve an existing product, or imagine something that only a creative spirit could conceive. They built displays and prototypes, and perfected their pitches. Only a few nerves were frazzled as spectators and judges visited to take in these creations.
Demonstrations by the Rochester Engineering Society, Xerox-sponsored F.I.R.S.T. robotics teams and experts from the Rochester Museum and Science Center added fun and excitement. And, oh yeah, R2D2 dropped by with his friends, and I was lucky to grab a picture with them. After pizza and cookies, students left with dozens of ribbons, t-shirts, and take home science kits to encourage their interest throughout the summer.
My hope is that Xerox people left with feelings of accomplishment and pride. I know I did.